A key figure in the conservative movement who railed against Donald Trump in the Republican primaries now says any action by conservatives other than a vote for Trump is equivalent to a vote for Hillary Clinton and surrendering the Supreme Court to liberals for at least the next 30 years.
But Richard Viguerie also has some tough love for Trump, saying the presumptive GOP nominee has hurt himself badly over the past month when he should have been using those weeks to consolidate support and convincing donors he’s a serious candidate.
Viguerie has been in the conservative movement for well over 50 years and pioneered the use of direct mail in political campaigns. He is now chairman at ConservativeHQ.com and author of “Takeover: The 100-Year War for the Soul of the GOP and How Conservatives Can Finally Win It.”
On Tuesday, Trump swept the final Republican contests and is now well beyond the 1,237 pledged delegates needed to secure the nomination. Clinton, meanwhile, clinched the delegates needed for the Democratic Party nomination, although Bernie Sanders is staying in the race in hopes of convincing enough super-delegates to switch to his campaign.
But barring a major surprise, the November race boils down to Trump versus Clinton. As a result, Viguerie said conservatives have to pick one or the other.
“If you’re not supporting Trump, you’re supporting Hillary,” Viguerie said. “The idea of hiding behind euphemisms like being a spoiler, that means you’re supporting Hillary.”
He said there are enormous negative consequences for conservatives if Clinton is elected president.
“Hillary’s not the only one on the ballot this November,” Viguerie said. “The Supreme Court for the next 30 years is on the ballot. The Second Amendment is on the ballot. Religious liberty is on the ballot. Open borders is on the ballot. It’s either Donald Trump or all those things will happen, and we probably will lose our country.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Richard Viguerie:
While Trump has succeeded in consolidating more than 80 percent of Republicans according to recent polls, many staunch conservatives are repulsed by Trump for reasons ranging from his personal conduct to his recent conversion from liberal position on a host of issues and to concerns he doesn’t understand many issues and has no interest in learning about them.
Viguerie said those are not good enough reasons to resist Trump.
“It’s not a close call,” he said. “I don’t understand what they’re talking about. Trump might be wrong 20 percent of the time or 30 percent of the time. He might be wrong 40 percent of the time. Hillary is going to be wrong 100 percent of the time.”
Viguerie said he understands where those critics are coming from. He enthusiastically backed Ted Cruz and wrote several columns critical of Trump. But he said the circumstances are clear.
“Donald Trump was not my first, second, third, fourth, fifth choice, but’s he’s now the only option that we have,” he said. “Yes, he’s going to make some wrong decisions. He’s going to appoint some people we’re unhappy with. But he’s not going to be wrong 100 percent of the time.”
He believes the next four years will be a nightmare for Republicans personally if Hillary Clinton wins.
“Hillary and the Democrats will try their best to destroy Republicans in the coming four years,” Viguerie said. “They will use the police power of government to do that.”
But while Viguerie implores conservatives to get behind Trump, he said the GOP standard bearer has been a huge disappointment since clearing the field more than a month ago.
“He’s probably lost ground in the month since we last talked. He’s had a big, open window here of about five weeks’ head start on Hillary, and it looks like he’s pretty much blown it. He’s probably gone backward even more than standing still,” said Viguerie, who argued Trump needs to take the lead in uniting the party.
“It’s not really up to everybody else to come together,” he said. “It’s really up to him to lead, and we haven’t seen much leadership in that area, quite frankly.”
Viguerie wants to see progress in two key areas, beginning with Trump upping his game to convince donors, who will be necessary, that his campaign is worth the investment.
“The people who will be contributing that money need to see that he is a serious person, that he’s going to run a serious campaign,” he said. “By his antics so far, he hasn’t indicated that he’s really serious about running a serious campaign.”
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He also said Trump needs to unveil more people who will hold prominent positions in a Trump administration.
“As I’m fond of saying: Personnel is policy,” Viguerie said. “You can promise the sun, the moon, the stars and believe it, but if you only appoint big government-type Republicans, Wall Street types, big-business types, our issues are over. We’ll have lost.”
Viguerie believes the race is winnable for Trump, given his proven ability to connect with voters and Hillary Clinton’s political baggage. He said a critical step will be for Trump to choose a running mate that Republicans across the board can applaud.
“That’s kind of the ballgame,” Viguerie said. “If he muffs this one, if he makes a mistake on the VP choice, I’m not sure he can unite the party. Uniting the party is the number one ingredient necessary to win in November.”
At ConservativeHQ.com, Viguerie is in the midst of a multi-part series on prospective running mates that would be good choices for Trump. The list includes the likes of Newt Gingrich and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., but Viguerie said he will reveal his game-changing recommendation in his Friday column.